Dondo yaki Saitama Prefecture dondo-yaki

Dondo-yaki is another of dozens of New Year customs in Japan. In fact, it is often said to signify the end of the New Year’s period. It involves the ritual burning of a bonfire of amulets, arrows, name plates and other such religious artefacts, even daruma as in the featured photo, that are bought at shrines or temples in the previous year. Most of the dondo-yaki take place in the middle of January, usually the 14th or 15th, but there are a few exceptions, as you will see in the round up in below. And many of them are on the grounds of a shrine or temple, but some of them are just in a field in a community.

Dondo-Yaki

Dondo-yaki goes by a few other names too. Such as Otakiage, Sagicho and Tondo. Otakiage is normally related to the burning of amulets and religious artefacts of dead people, but for this New Year custom it is just related to the burning of the pyres of all / any shrine and temple goods. In Saitama Prefecture, Yakyu Inari – number eight on the list below – is one place where they call dondoyaki “Otakiage”. The name seems to be decided by region.

The purpose of the dondo-yaki is to correctly dispose of old amulets so that you don’t inadvertently bring bad luck on yourself. Moreover, you simultaneously open yourself to good luck in health for the year. You do this by breathing in the smoke of the fire. With caution of course. There are also some other beliefs associated with the bonfire. For example, that eating mochi roasted on the fire will further benefit your health or burning calligraphy in the fire will improve your writing!

Here are ten places for dondo yaki in Saitama Prefecture this year:

Saitama Prefecture

  1. Honjo
  2. Kita Koshigaya
  3. Kamisato
  4. Chichibu
  5. Kawaguchi
  6. Kuki – postponed
  7. Kitamoto
  8. Higashimatsuyama
  9. Koshigaya
  10. Saitama City

1. Honjo

The dondo-yaki in the Kodama area of Honjo is part of the Dosojin Matsuri. It is one of the earliest dondoyaki on the list. In 2024 it will take place on January 7th. This is one of the rituals that doesn’t take place on the grounds of a temple or shrine, but rather in a field. A field in Senbonzakura park, where you can see five kilometers of cherry blossoms bloom in spring.

Date: Sunday January 7th 2024
Venue: Okubo Youth Committee Dodoyaki field, 900 Kodamacho Kodama, Honjo, Saitama 367-0212. View on Google Maps.
Official web page on Honjo City website.


2. Kita Koshigaya

The dondoyaki at Katori Shrine is one of the better known New Year fire rituals. Before the pandemic they used to give out soup. Unfortunately, it stopped during the pandemic and they don’t plan to have it in 2024 either. However, all things equal, you can grill red and white rice cakes shaped quite like marshmallows on the fire, using something like a fishing rod!

Date: Sunday January 14th 2024
Venue: Koshigaya Katori Shrine, 3 Chome-13-38 Osawa, Koshigaya, Saitama 343-0025. View on Google Maps.
Official website.


3. Kamisato

The Dondo-yaki festival in Kamisato is also quite famous within Saitama. It is another one that is not at a temple or shrine. During the pandemic the event was downsized. But this year they hope to carry out a festival more like before the pandemic. However, they won’t be releasing the detailed information until nearer the time. They will be published in the January edition of the Nanbongi Community Center monthly magazine.

Date: January 14th 2024 from noon.
Venue: Kamisato Embankment Pond Sports Park, Kamisato, Kodama District, Saitama 〒369-0313. View on Google Maps.
Official website.


4. Chichibu

The dondoyaki in the kamiyoshida area of Chichibu reminds me greatly of Halloween back home in Ireland. Because the children go around collecting the items to be burned on the fire. Then make the bonfires which are lit at night in a fire festival creating a valley of fire. The fire ritual here is called Dorokujin-yaki. Many old customs are practised on the day. For example, hanging pine over the doorway and eating rice cakes roasted over the fire.

Date: January 14th 2024
Venue: Ohami, Kamiyoshida, Chichibu, Saitama 369-1505. View on Google Maps.
Official website.


5. Kawaguchi

There is a dondo-yaki at Chinjyu Hikawa Shrine in Kawaguchi on Monday the 15th of January from 7 pm. After the bonfire and prayers are completed, rice cakes roasted on the sacred fire are served. If you want to burn something at this dondoyaki, please be sure to check the official website to see what they do / don’t accept.

Date: January 15th 2024
Venue: View on Google Maps.
Official website.


6. Kuki

Shobu Shrine in Kuki is one of the places were they call the ritual “Sagicho”. The ritual is on January 15th annually from 9 am – postponed until the 19th in 2024. If you would actually like to burn something religious at this shrine, you need to apply in advance, by January 15th. They have a useful piece of information on their website: “Although we will accept goods from other shrines, it is generally polite to return the items to the shrine where you received them.” Shobu shrine is home to a wisteria that is a natural monument of Saitama Prefecture.

Date: January 15th 2024 – according to the official website, the event has been postponed until January 19th due to a high wind forecast for the 15th.
Venue: View on Google Maps.
Official event page.


7. Kitamoto

At Takao Hikawa Shrine in Kitamoto, they burn New Year decorations all day on the 15th of January annually. They will accept Kadomatsu too. This shrine has beautiful prayer votives in the shape of cherry blossoms, because Kitamoto has a very famous cherry blossom tree. It is also home to the largest wooden “omikuji”, fortune telling stick. More about the shrine in English.

Date: January 15th 2024
Venue: Takao Hikawa Shrine, 7 Chome-31 Takao, Kitamoto, Saitama 364-0034. View on Google Maps.


8. Higashimatsuyama

Yakyu Inari (the baseball) shrine have a otakiage on the 7th of January. The great thing about their dondo-yaki is that is on while the temple is still in its new year festival period. The 7th is the last day of the new year festival. There is a great atmosphere at the temple and there are usually food trucks on the grounds. More information about the temple in English.

Date: January 7th 2024
Venue: Yakyu Inari Shrine, 2 Chome-5-14 Yakyucho, Higashimatsuyama, Saitama 355-0028. View on Google Maps.
Official website.


9. Koshigaya

The second on the list in Koshigaya. This time in the beautiful Hisaizu Shrine, which is known for many things, including Kagura, wisteria and its large prayer votive. The wisteria is a cultural property of Saitama Prefecture and the large votive tablet is a cultural property of Koshigaya City. Hisaizu Shrine is the only place on this list that has dondoyaki on two dates, which in 2024 is Sunday January 14th and Monday January 15th.

Date: January 14th and 15th 2024.
Venue: Hisaizu Shrine, 1700 Koshigaya, Saitama 343-0024. View on Google Maps.
Official website.


10. Saitama City

The second Hisaizu Shrine on the list! Each year on the 15th of January they have a small dondoyaki on the shrine grounds. However, some years, like last year, they postpone it last minute if the weather isn’t suitable. They don’t detail it on their website, but usually put some information on one of their social media accounts. The social media accounts are linked on their official website, which I’ve shared below, so you can check for the most up-to-date information. More information about the shrine in English.

Date: January 15th
Venue: Hisaizu Shrine, 2 Chome-6-55 Miyacho, Iwatsuki Ward, Saitama, 339-0065. View on Google Maps.
Official website.


Please note – not all dondoyaki are created equally! Some are quite small and just for practical use. Others are a larger affair with more of a festive atmosphere. Also, if you want to burn something at a dondo-yaki, be sure to check what they will or won’t burn and whether you need to apply in advance to have your items burned. In addition, you will need to check the deadline for dropping things off for burning. And whether they charge for the service. However, if you are just spectating, you generally don’t need to apply in advance or pay a fee. Photos are generally permitted, but if in doubt, ask in advance or on the day.

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